Chartered in 1711, historic Beaufort is South Carolina’s second-oldest city after Charleston.
But it’s really more accurate to call Beaufort a small waterfront town of about 15,000 residents where history is alive and well-preserved.
In fact, the entire 300-acre downtown area has been designated as a National Historic Landmark and the immediate area is home to nearly 70 additional National Historic Sites.
So it’s not surprising that Beaufort has been rediscovered in the 21st century as a popular vacation and retirement destination. The restaurants, shops, art galleries, and museums on downtown Bay Street are a stroller’s delight, and the adjacent Henry Chambers Waterfront Park hosts a year-round calendar of community events where locals and visitors alike celebrate the sights, sounds, and tastes of the seasons.
Among the retirees who have long known about Beaufort‘s appeal are military veterans, many introduced to the area while stationed at the nearby U.S. Marine Corp’s Parris Island training depot or the MC Air Station Beaufort. The U.S. Naval Hospital Beaufort tops an impressive list of local medical facilities that serve veterans and civilian retirees.
With a semi-tropical low-country climate and community retirement amenities like the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Osher Lifelong Learning Center, Southern Living magazine named Beaufort as the nation’s “Best Small Southern Town,” and Coastal Living Magazine found it to be the “Happiest Seaside Town in America.”
DATE NIGHT (with or without the grandkids)
Highway 21 Drive In
The Highway 21 Drive In presents double-feature movies on each of the two giant screens every Thursday-Sunday nights. One offers popular films for kids, while the other has current releases for adults. All are shown in state-of-the-art digital format and can be previewed at the theater website, along with coming attractions and special events. The concession stand has burgers, corn dogs, and all of your favorite movie treats. Located just five miles north of downtown Beaufort on Highway 21.
Beaufort’s strategic location in the heart of the Lowcountry makes for easy day trips to Charleston, Savannah, and Hilton Head Island, or you can check out these local destinations:
Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island is “Beaufort’s Beach,” a 5,000-acre state park with five miles of oceanfront, 11 hiking/biking trails of various lengths, educational programs and events, a fishing pier, 102 campsites with water/electrical hookups and WiFi, and the historic Hunting Island Lighthouse, where visitors can climb 167 steps to the top for panoramic seaside views.
Tanger Outlet Center
Located in nearby Bluffton, just off of Highway 278 on the way to Hilton Head Island, the Tanger Outlet is the region’s largest outlet mall with more than 85 name-brand stores that feature discount deals on adult and children’s clothing, footwear, housewares, jewelry, specialty items, and more. On-site restaurants include Olive Garden, Panera Bread, and Robert Irvine’s Nosh. Open seven days a week.
BEST CULTURAL SITES
Pat Conroy Literary Center
Established in 2016 by family and friends of the late author, the Pat Conroy Literary Center is home to a museum with unique exhibits and a tribute film honoring the life and works of the acclaimed writer who made Beaufort his home. It’s also a learning center that preserves his legacy with writers’ workshops, reading groups, and the annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival, plus community-outreach literacy efforts. Open to the public on Friday-Sunday afternoons.
Santa Elena History Center
Located on Bay Street in downtown Beaufort, the Santa Elena History Center presents exhibits that showcase the region’s 16th-century European exploration and settlement. The focus is archeological evidence from nearby Parris Island, the French site of Charlesfort (1562) and the Spanish town of Santa Elena (1566), established prior to the founding of St. Augustine in Florida. Video presentations, 3-D scale models, and live interpretations in period costumes, plus a children’s interactive area, for history lovers of all ages.
USCB Center for the Arts
The University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Center for the Arts has been the area’s cultural hub for more than 30 years. Home to the Beaufort Theatre Company, Beaufort Children’s Theater and USCB Chamber Music Series, the center offers a year-round calendar of art exhibits, stage performances, musical concerts, independent films, and special presentations like the Met Opera Live in HD. The website has ticket information for upcoming events.
February 19-24, 2019
Beaufort International Film Festival
Now in its 13th year, the Beaufort Film Society and USCB Center for the Arts host this week-long tribute to the art of filmmaking in the town where classics like “The Big Chill” and “The Great Santini” were made. Juried awards are given for the best American and foreign independent films, plus animations, long and short features, documentaries, and screenplays. Proceeds benefit local arts programs and charities.
April 27-28, 2019
MCAS Beaufort Air Show
The Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort hosts one of the nation’s largest air shows every spring. On the ground are historic aircraft exhibitions and educational presentations, but the real action is in the air: the famous U.S. Navy Blue Angels head the list of performers that range from aerobatic stunt planes to breathtaking overflights by the military’s latest combat jets.
May 3-4, 2019
Taste of Beaufort Music, Arts & Seafood Festival
A perfect sampler of the Beaufort lowcountry lifestyle, this free-admission weekend event at Chambers Waterfront Park includes a 5K bridge run/walk and kids’ fun run, handmade treasures at the arts & crafts fair, evening music concerts, and dozens of participating local restaurants offering their seafood specialties.
July 12-21, 2019
Beaufort Water Festival
A Lowcountry tradition since 1956, the 64th Annual Beaufort Water Festival will be a 10-day celebration of local food, fun and cultural heritage. Most of the free events are held at the downtown Chambers Waterfront Park, including a huge Arts & Crafts Market on the promenade. Family-friendly activities include fishing, badminton and bocce tournaments, boat tours, raft races and water-skiing exhibitions, live music concerts and dances, and fresh local cuisine, all climaxing with the Commodore’s Ball, Blessing of the Fleet, and Parade of Boats.
Celadon is a masterplanned community on Lady’s Island with a focus on the wellness lifestyle for its residents. Located just a short drive from downtown Beaufort, the manicured neighborhood walking trails/bike paths meander around three freshwater ponds, and there’s a Jr. Olympic-size swimming pool for aquatic exercise and relaxation. Celadon Club amenities include a state-of-the-art fitness facility and spa with tailored workout programs, steam rooms, massage therapy, and nutrition planning. Move-in ready homes, homesites with pre-approved plans, and customizable designs from preferred builders are available.
Designed for just 49 single-family homes in a natural and intimate Battery Creek setting, City Walk’s name rings true: The stylish new community is literally located within walking distance of the restaurants, shops, offices, and attractions of historic downtown Beaufort. Equally appreciated by resident hikers and bikers is the convenient access to the awesome 10-mile-long (and growing) Spanish Moss Trail. Neighborhood gatherings are regular events to share sunsets and refreshments at the private waterfront park. Customizable floor plans feature large lowcountry porches and first-floor master suites, with new homes by preferred builders that start in the low $400,000s.
Set along the pristine Coosaw River on Lady’s Island, the Coosaw Point residential community features gracious lowcountry-style homes in three distinctive neighborhoods with parks that are connected by walking trails. The River Club offers a pool and fitness facilities, as well as a large recreation room for community meetings and private parties. The lighted tennis and pickleball courts are located in the main interior park, while CP’s Crab Shack hosts family gatherings and oyster roasts. Residents also enjoy use of a private floating dock for kayak launching, plus a nearby public ramp for larger craft.
DATAW ISLAND CLUB
With an established residential community in one of the lowcountry’s most picturesque locations, Dataw Island Club offers amenities that are second to none. Both of the club’s championship golf courses—Tom Fazio’s Cotton Dike and Arthur Hills’ Morgan River—are award-winning designs that have been recently renovated, while the Dataw Tennis Center was honored in 2017 by the U.S. Tennis Association as one of the top four private facilities in the entire nation. With complete fitness facilities and scores of active social clubs, Dataw was named by Real Estate Scorecard the winner of its 2017 Bliss Award as “South Carolina Community of the Year.”
Located just 10 minutes from downtown Beaufort, Pinckney Retreat is a gated waterfront community planned for 77 choice homesites on the scenic grounds of an antebellum plantation. The Retreat House, originally built in 1763 and beautifully restored with contemporary conveniences, is a hub of community social life. Additional amenities include a pool, covered outdoor dining area with fireplace and grill, covered pier for fishing and crabbing, day dock for kayaks and canoes, and marshside walking trails. Waterfront homes are available from the low $600,000s, with a limited number of home sites on Battery Creek remaining.
Callawassie Island is located midway between Beaufort and Bluffton in a certified Community Wildlife Habitat that combines the serenity of a nature preserve with the finest lowcountry lifestyle amenities. Kayaks and fishing boats can be launched on the surrounding tidal creeks from four convenient community docks, while Callawassie Island Club members also enjoy year-round golf on the 27-hole course by Tom Fazio, a brand-new fitness center and two clubhouses with pools, tennis courts, and dining rooms. Spacious single-family homes in neighborhoods shaded by moss-draped oaks and choice waterfront home sites are available.
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Tech Talk: Technology Changes Everything
A shorter road to retirement: retire without quitting.
As many of us get closer to retirement, we start to imagine ourselves at that beach enjoying coffee at sunrise, meals overlooking a beautiful vista, or relaxing with a brandy by a roaring fire at a mountainside retreat, enjoying the well-earned fruits of our labor. While a change in lifestyle and scenery is often what we crave, retirement is a big life-altering change. Many would like to transition by being able to enjoy some of what retirement has to offer, like location and flexibility, while still having the structure, intellectual stimulation, and, let’s face it, the financial rewards of still working.
Because of the changing nature of work and global connectivity, you may no longer have to choose. We rely on laptop computing, the internet, wireless networks, and smart phones to work. These innovations have allowed us to be more productive. The walls of the modern offices have grown less solid, and more of us are freed to work from anywhere and everywhere.
In 2017, Forbes said that up to 43% of people spent at least some time working remotely. Working remotely helps eliminate the time and expense associated with commuting and allows companies to access a much larger talent pool because they are not geographically limited to those willing to relocate or commute daily to their physical location. Also, working remotely allows many people to be more productive, and having work flexibility increases employee satisfaction and retention. Voice and video conferencing apps available on our smartphones allow us to cooperate with the appropriate people over vast distances and time zones without having to deal the costs and inconvenience of travel. This evolution, which allows us to be productive everywhere, has also expanded the options for work in semi-retirement.
Keep your job
You want it all: the location, the lifestyle, but you still love your work and don’t want to give that up completely either. This option involves having an honest conversation with your employer about your plans and goals. Employers love to be efficient, and losing a valuable member of their organization, especially employees who understand their business and have established relationships, is a costly endeavor. In these situations, employers are often willing to make reasonable accommodations in time flexibility and work location to retain a valuable team member.
Traditional employment is not the only option when it comes to working remotely. The technology which has enabled this revolution has also helped to grow and change the very nature of employment. These changes have brought about the “Gig economy.” The Gig economy is basically work without all the strings. It allows people to offer freelance services on a per job basis having the flexibility of time and location.
Websites acting as on-line temp agencies for freelance work have grown exponentially. There are now scores of websites that allow people to offer and find work. Sites such as Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer offer opportunities for people to work by the hour, project, or job. While many of these sites allow virtual work from anywhere, others like TaskRabbit are more location specific. They look to match local people in a community with diverse tasks with people who can and want to do the work. The tasks can be anything really; install a ceiling fan, organize a closet, assemble IKEA furniture, pet sit, or simply wait in line. This is a fantastic option for people, especially retirees, who have time to try different things and meet new people but don’t want traditional hours or work environment.
The Life Exotic
Tired of the ordinary and looking for adventure? If your skillset suits remote work, then perhaps you decide to become a true digital nomad for a while. The same technology that allows people to work remotely isn’t hemmed in by borders or time zones. This lifestyle is not for everyone but offers those with a true zest for adventure a new opportunity. Many adventurers use technology to set up shop and live pretty much anywhere on the planet. These digital nomads find connectivity hotspots and commune from Bali to Latvia and other interesting and exotic places around the world. They are drawn to sites that have low costs for living with good co-work spaces. While their living costs are usually low, they are most often working for first world wages. This remote working arrangement offers the flexibility to accommodate the desire for travel and adventure and the need to produce income for all that travel and adventure. While this lifestyle is generally associated with younger people, the advantage of adopting this lifestyle later in life is that you likely have assets to support your travels and can be choosy in finding and taking on new assignments, not to mention better digs.
Technology has changed the way we work and now has the power to positively impact our choices as we decide how we wish to live and work. As technology, such as virtual reality and robotics, become more ubiquitous, our opportunities for and relationship with work will continue to change for the better. So, you can have it all: location, lifestyle, and work. It can all be yours to enjoy as you imagine the vistas that lie ahead.
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Six Financial Planning Considerations for a Successful Retirement
How much money will you need to retire? Do you have a financial plan to help you meet the needs of retirement? Do you have enough assets to last a retirement of 20 to 30 years? Do you have a Retirement Income Spend-Down Plan? How will you manage rising health care costs and long-term care?
These are loaded questions; many factors are involved and a “cookie cutter plan” will not meet the needs of everyone. Baby Boomers were most impacted by the “Great Recession” 10 years ago. Given the economic rebound since and inevitable recessions in the economic cycle, we wanted to take a look at strategies for a secure retirement by examining the five common planning issues people may encounter.
According to a recent Schwab survey, only 25 percent of Americans have a written strategy for retirement.
So, when ideal-LIVING reached out to us at Lawrence S. Tundidor, AIF®, AAMS®, AWMA® of Tundidor & Weiss Investment Group, we were grateful for to be given the opportunity to offer our insight in order to help future retirees find ways to avoid these common issues. Here are six key points that will make all the difference.
one. Take control of your money
two. Not having a proper retirement income spend-down plan
three. Having an antiquated investment portfolio
four. Underestimating risks: longevity, investment, inflation
five. Lacking protection for your family and estate
six. Working with a financial advisor who puts your best interests first
Take control of your money
Upon changing employment/retirement, some keep their money in the original employer sponsor plan. It is important to take into account one’s personal situation and consider the various options, which include: keeping your assets in the original plan; withdrawing your assets (taxes are generally due upon withdrawal and any applicable tax penalties that may apply); or choosing to rollover your assets to an employer-sponsored retirement plan that accepts rollovers or to another eligible vehicle such as a traditional IRA. It is imperative to take control of your money when you make the decision to retire from your company. Considering your options will give you the freedom to work toward maximizing your investments.
Pension Maximization Possibilities
Examine pension survivorship benefits. If you are one of the lucky ones to retire with a pension, at the time of retirement, you must elect how you will disperse the benefit. To protect your spouse, you can typically opt for a lower monthly amount to ensure your spouse is covered until “end of plan.” This may or may not be the best option. Some clients choose to opt for the single life benefit and instead have an Insurance policy to protect their spouse or beneficiaries. In some cases, not only can it protect loved ones, but some insurance policies allow for the death benefit to also be used for long-term care. This can ensure that the benefit will be used during one’s life, death, or both. This is an irrevocable decision, so consult with a financial advisor before finalizing your election.
The majority of pension benefits do not have a “COLA” (Cost of Living Adjustment) increase with age, therefore, consider what the money will be worth in 20 years. Assuming above a three percent inflation rate, a $4,000 a month pension would only be worth about $2,000 a month in 20 years. For those with a lump sum option, consider the option to invest and generate an income stream that has the ability to offset inflation pressures over time.
Not having a proper retirement income spend-down plan
Where do you draw your money from when you need it? From an IRA? Sell stocks? 401Ks? Real estate? Brokerage accounts?
You have worked very hard for your money and decisions on when and where to use your money can have ill-intentioned consequences.
Plan where your money will come from instead of putting it all into one pot. In retirement, you should consider having long-term, mid- term, and short-term investments to help protect you from market fluctuations while maximizing your income potential. More conservative investments go in short-term, moderate investments for mid-term, and more aggressive in long-term. Picking and choosing investments to liquidate on a monthly basis can be stressful, and most advisors show you how and where to save but not how to create an income stream from your investment assets.
When drawing income directly from a 401k, the plan provider will typically sell shares or “units” to send you a monthly amount you requested. The issue with this strategy is that you are indiscriminately selling shares in an up or down market regardless of price. In a down market, you are selling shares at a lower price and therefore cannot allow time for those shares to recover essentially burning the candle on both ends. Consider investments that provide a dividend or yield that allow you to draw income without selling shares.
Having an income spend-down plan can help minimize taxes. For example, if you are taking all of your income from your IRA, this could potentially put you in a higher tax bracket. The goal is to determine how much money to draw from each of your investment assets to maximize your returns and minimize your tax consequences.
Having an antiquated investment portfolio
A recent Vanguard study projected investors’ portfolio returns over the next 10 years to be between three and five percent annually versus nine to 11 percent they have enjoyed over the last decade. Many pre-retirees/retirees have invested with a 60/40 stock/bond ratio and think their portfolio is diversified and able to generate enough income. In the past, bonds have yielded five to seven percent, but now most estimates put projections for bond returns at an average of two percent. It is important to examine having some portion of your investments in alternative assets or alternative strategies to work to minimize volatility and potentially increase return. As few as two percent of the U.S. population has a truly diversified portfolio with alternatives. Diversification may allow you to hedge against inflation and interest rates.
There are three major types of risk that people fail to analyze: investment risk, longevity risk, and inflation risk.
Investment risk (tied to sequence of returns) is the possibility that your investments could lose value because of movements in financial markets. A recession historically comes once or twice every decade. If you had retired during that time and were forced to sell investments to fund your retirement expenses, then you would have lost a great deal of the upside when the market recovered. For example, Disney stock had dipped down to $20 in 2008; you may not have been able to wait for it to recover and then sell when the price was much higher. Now that it has been 10 years since the last recession and many have enjoyed great returns since then, it would be wise to re-evaluate their investments to make sure they are in line with their time horizon. Many individuals who visit the Ideal-LIVING Shows today were still working and still had many years to retirement in 2008; but now that they are closer to retirement, it is important that they evaluate their current situation.
People today are living longer, and this forces us to evaluate longevity risks. According to the Wall Street Journal, there is a 50 percent chance that a Baby Boomer today will live to age 90. If you don’t plan accordingly, your income could run out before you do. Most people think if they draw 4 percent out per year, they will have enough income to last. Some have recently argued that number should be about 2.5 to three percent per year. In the first three years of retirement, the average retiree tends to spend approximately 20 percent more and this overdraw can also contribute to insufficient sums for the later years if not planned for correctly.
Don’t forget inflation. At above a three percent inflation rate, the value of a dollar in 20 years is about half of what it is worth today. A 2018 Bankrate survey concluded that some Americans are still risk averse and have left a large amount of money sitting in cash. If the bank gives you a yield at a rate under inflation, you are actually earning a negative return during that time. Be aware of how inflation affects your bottom line and focus on inflation adjusted income in retirement.
Lacking protection for you. Your family, and your estate
According to Fidelity, a 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need an average of $275,000 to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses. And that doesn’t include the costs associated with long-term nursing home care.
Often times, retirees might have a last will and testament, but not a comprehensive estate plan. Adequate protections should be evaluated for health ,as well as leaving a legacy. The US Census indicates that one in five Americans may become disabled for a period of time. Do you have a plan in the event a disability occurs years before retirement due to an accident or poor health? Do you have a plan to deal with the rising cost of long-term care (LTC) insurance? According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, around 70 percent of adults over the age of 65 will need long-term care insurance at some point in their lives, and it is usually at the tail end of a financial plan when assets tend to be at their lowest point after 20 to 30 years of withdrawals. Consider ways to mitigate those long-term care costs. Traditional long-term care can be a good option for some as they can lock in a specific benefit and have the ability to grow it to offset inflation. The downside is that if you don’t use the benefit, you typically lose it, and as you get older, the premiums are not fixed and can go up over time. A Hybrid Life Insurance policy with a long-term care rider allows one to have a life insurance benefit while still working or in retirement, with the ability to use some or all of their death benefit for the purposes of long-term care in their later years. This option can give clients the ability to pay for a benefit that they know will be used in one way or another, potentially eliminating the feeling of “use it or lose it” that some may have with traditional policies. Also, Hybrid policies can be structured with “fixed” premiums or a lump-sum and therefore, reduce the risk of rising premiums that some may experience traditionally. The downside is that underwriting requirements are typically more stringent since you are underwriting a death benefit and living benefit together. Many individuals have older cash value policies without a LTC benefit that may consider
re-evaluating those policies to create a new benefit. The third option is asset-based; using either retirement accounts or cash to generate an annuity stream during retirement that can continue to pay for long-term care costs later in life. This option can also be useful to individuals who are not able to pass the medical examination requirements of traditional or hybrid policies, as well as those in risk classes such as smokers and those with Diabetes where the price may be prohibitive.
As far as a strategy for estate planning is concerned, all pre-tax retirement plans and traditional IRAs require a minimum annual distribution after reaching the age of 70 and a half. Most take that distribution and simply put it into a savings account. Other options can be to take the cash and invest post-tax, to contribute to long-term care protection, or to leave a legacy. What type of legacy would you like to leave? You could gift money to your children/grandchildren, set up an endowment for charity, or protect the assets in a trust. There are countless options and strategies to create the legacy you choose.
Working with a financial advisor who puts your best interests first.
Post-retirement living is very different, so take the time to explore your options well in advance of your retirement age. We encourage you to sit down with an unbiased, independent financial advisor that puts your best interests first and helps you compose a written personalized and holistic financial strategy with the goals of protecting your retirement investments and securing the next chapter of your financial future. To learn more about the topics above, please attend Lawrence’s seminars held at the King of Prussia, PA, and Parsippany, NJ, Ideal-LIVING Real Estates Shows in January and February. In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to contact Lawrence at LawrenceT@VoyaFA.com.
Investment adviser representative and registered representative of, and securities and investment advisory services offered through Voya Financial Advisors, Inc. (member SPIC). Neither Voya Financial Advisors nor its representatives offer tax or legal advice. Please consult with your tax and legal advisors regarding your individual situation. Tundidor & Weiss is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by Voya Financial Advisors. 37310919_IAR_102D
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An Ideal Confluence of Work and Play
Scotch Hall Preserve is a North Carolina waterfront community set on a prominent headland where Salmon Creek and the Chowan River flow into Albemarle Sound. Native Americans called the area “Avoca,” meaning “the meeting of the waters.”
Lois and Richard Gobbi are originally from California but moved to Maryland 20 years ago because of his engineering work. As they neared retirement age, the Gobbis began a search that eventually brought them to North Carolina.
“We were looking for a water view where we could build our dream retirement home,” Lois said. “We looked extensively in Maryland and Virginia and found places that just didn’t suit us at much higher prices. The value of the property here was a definite attraction.”
The Gobbis found that perfect view at a Scotch Hall Preserve homesite overlooking the sound and moved into their dream home in 2017. But, like many couples who move to warmer climes these days, they didn’t both retire right away. Lois had finished up her work in a high school counseling office in 2016, but Richard still consults for a government contractor from his home office.
“Working from home allows him to enjoy the beauty of Scotch Hall and continue his career,” Lois said. She also has a home art studio for a hobby that has become a new calling as she’s gotten more involved in community life. “I’m on the HOA Advisory Board and Architectural Review Committee,” she said, “and I’ve organized art classes for the residents. My love is for painting and helping others learn to paint is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Scotch Hall is such a special place, not just
because of its beautiful surroundings, but because
of the wonderful people in our community.
— Louis Gobbi
Scotch Hall’s Arnold Palmer Signature golf course also proved to be irresistible. “With the beautiful course right outside our door,” Lois said, “we have both taken up golf, which is new for us.” Other outdoor recreations have also become part of their lifestyle. “The swimming pool is a big attraction for us and our family and friends,” she continued. “During the summer, I do water aerobics classes three days a week. We also enjoy jet skiing and tried kayaking with the family recently. We’re going to buy our own kayaks and maybe build our own dock in the future.”
And, the Gobbis have found a lot to like just beyond the Scotch Hall gates. “We really enjoy trips to Edenton, which is 20 minutes over the bridge from our home,” Richard said. “Edenton has become our local town where we attend church, shop at the farmers market, and frequent the local stores and restaurants.”
“We also love to go to the Outer Banks, which is a little over an hour and a half away,” Lois added. “We always stop at Manteo, a quaint town on the water with shopping and restaurants.”
“And, we’re planning to explore more of North Carolina,” Richard said, “especially west toward the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Asheville area.”
Closer to home, the Gobbis have made new friends and hosted holiday dinners for their neighbors. “Scotch Hall is such a special place,” Lois concluded, “not just because of its beautiful surroundings, but because of the wonderful people in our community.”
At “The Meeting of the Waters,” Lois and Richard Gobbi have found just the right balance for the ongoing adventure of their lives.
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The Fried Chicken Chronicles
An Arizona chef dives head first into Carolina cuisine
What do you get when you put a west coast boy smack dab in the middle of a Southern kitchen? Seasonal world cuisine with a side of mashed potatoes, as it turns out. In another attempt to explore the chefs within the prestigious country club industry, I got to know Chef Francisco Villalba (lovingly known as Chef Frankie). At The Reserve Club at Woodside in Aiken, SC, he takes on everything from down-home cooking to themed events to one hell of a July 4th party for over 400 guests. Though his passion for the culinary arts has taken him far from his roots, he’s becoming grounded (and quite well-versed) in making meatloaf and mingling with shrimp boat captains. This is his story.
Chef Francisco Villalba | The Reserve Club at Woodside | Aiken, SC
What was your journey to getting where you are today in your culinary career?
Chef Francisco Villalba: When I got out of high school, I had a very different path. I was at a regular college where I had received a full ride for soccer, and I was in the Nursing Program. I started cooking at a bar and after a while—realized that it was my thing (but I didn’t want to be a grill cook).
I wanted to be a professional chef. I studied at the Art Institute of Phoenix and got my Associates Degree in culinary as well as Hotel and Restaurant Management. While I was in school, I was hired at a 4-diamond hotel in Arizona. I was in over my head, but I stuck it out and developed my culinary repertoire. If you want to be good at something and do something you love, you educate yourself along the way and learn quickly.
I was the Executive Sous Chef at the country club I came from in Scottsdale, AZ. The company who manages them is responsible for properties all over the world, and an opportunity for the Executive Chef position opened up here. I applied and was given a shot on a big leap of faith.
What drew you into the country club environment versus working in a regular restaurant?
Chef Francisco Villalba: When I was working in the hotel industry, I was the chef of the conference center and was feeding anywhere from 300 – 2,000 a day. Customers started to just feel like numbers. Now I get to work directly with people and cater to them. I fell in love with the private club aspect through being able to have a more personalized relationship with the members. In this field, I get to listen to our guests, provide them with what they want, tackle any obstacles, and keep people happy.
Do you operate and create menus for both dining areas—the main dining room and Latitudes? And, is there one where you feel more comfortable, or that fits best with your culinary point of view?
Chef Francisco Villalba: I do operate both. In the main dining room, we serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and that’s our comfort food zone (like fried chicken and meatloaf). Since I’m from Arizona and still learning about Southern cuisine, that’s an exploratory area for me. Latitudes is only open Friday and Saturday for dinner and it’s a la carte service as well as higher-end entrees. At Latitudes, I get to play a little bit more and use more elevated ingredients.
My culinary style is seasonal world cuisine. I’m first generation Mexican American so I grew up with that Latin flair. I love to use different ingredients with different culinary techniques, make beautiful dishes, and please palates. From that standpoint, Latitudes is more challenging in a good way because it’s more rewarding. And, I get to have more fun than just putting down meat and potatoes.
What local ingredients and resources from the area do you enjoy using most in your kitchen creations?
Chef Francisco Villalba: I source my meats locally, as well as from Atlanta, and my pork comes from in town. I get my seafood from the coast. My salmon comes from Florida, and I have a good relationship with a shrimp boat captain from Louisiana. Since I came from the desert and am not used to having fresh products so readily available—it’s really nice! As far as produce goes, my menu cycles are based on what’s being harvested in the area.
What other fun culinary events have you created for Woodside members, and which one seems to be the hit?
Chef Francisco Villalba: We had a great 4th of July event where we fed over 450 people. It was a miracle that we pulled that one off! We had fireworks on the lawn, live music, and everyone ate well and had a great time. For Halloween, we did a murder mystery dinner and I just made a super fun menu where we used items like beet juice to mimic blood spatters! For the holidays, instead of doing a Thanksgiving buffet, we do pick-up orders. That way, people who don’t want to cook or dirty up their house (but want to entertain) have easy access to the luxury of having someone else cook for them.
Your recipe is very fall-centric, so I’m assuming you enjoy cooking your way through the seasons! Strictly speaking food, what’s your favorite time of the year (and what ingredients do you love most from that season)?
Chef Francisco Villalba: I would definitely say the summer. Fresh and light seafood is my go-to! I’m a fan of freshness and I cook with a lot of fruit and citrus, so the summer is the perfect time of year to brighten up the palate.
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Cambridge Village, A New Kind of Retirement
At a time when many seniors are as fit and well as some in their 30s, one retirement community is staying a step ahead of the game.
The design and functionality of retirement apartment complexes have changed almost as much as the senior population in recent years. Retirement facilities are now typically as vibrant, socially active, and wellness-centered as the average active adult.
But, Cambridge Village has taken things a step further by making their facilities both indiscernible at first glance from a fine resort hotel and spa, and simultaneously as comfortable, friendly, and social as a full-service college campus apartment complex. With locations in Apex, Wilmington, and a future location in Raleigh – Brier Creek, senior living innovation was well primed in these areas. The economy and health and wellness industries are booming in both cities, attracting young families and retirees from across the country and around the world. Then, of course, in Wilmington there’s the beach, which tends to be pretty popular among, well, everyone.
As we all know, where there are young grandchildren, grandparents are likely to follow. So, a high population of young, growing families tends to attract more seniors to an area by default.
Why Cambridge Village
Cambridge Village is intended to offer a low-maintenance, wellness-focused, resort-style living experience to seniors busy living some of the best years of their lives. And, this feeling is immediately conveyed when one enters the lobby at Cambridge’s Wilmington location. There’s a feeling of ease, and a sense of well-being that feels deliciously contagious. And, given that Cambridge Village in Wilmington is less than five minutes from Wrightsville Beach and a stone’s throw from Mayfaire Town Center, it’s in the mix with everything that tourists and residents flock to. Cambridge residents can take morning walks to nearby cafes and shops, or an evening bike ride to their favorite Wrightsville Beach restaurant.
What’s to Love
Community activities are integral to everyday life at Cambridge Village. Many residents have children and grandchildren in the area, and have moved to Cambridge to be close to them while maintaining autonomy and independence. Others simply chose Cambridge Village for the location, or to stay close to the town and an area they know and love. But, all residents chose Cambridge partially from a desire to surround themselves with people they can relate to, and to develop a sense of community.
“Our residents come from all over,” said Katie Manning, Chief Marketing Strategist at Cambridge Village. “We have snowbirds who came down for warmer weather, people who moved to Wilmington to retire, and lifelong Wilmingtonians.”
And, with such diverse backgrounds comes the perfect environment for community building. Residents meet up for lunch at the Village Restaurant with Chef Charlie Blake, or for shuffleboard at the pub. They play pool, walk at Wrightsville Beach on Friday mornings, organize dances, put together wine & cheese neighborhood socials, play Mahjong and poker, and watch movies in the theater. And, many hop on weekly group bike rides and shuttle trips around town.
The Center for Optimal Living
Not only is the Center for Optimal Living impressive in its own right, but the structure implemented therein also helps residents to “achieve optimal wellness in body, mind, and spirit.”
Dozens of machines line the windows in a bright sunlit fitness room. There’s an extensive weight room and a yoga and fitness room across the hall that’s super-spacious and beautifully designed. And, the grand finale is an indoor five-lane lap pool with glass lining one wall and an industrial but elegant ceiling that adds specific interest and inspiration. But, behind all the fancy fitness rooms and equipment is a physician-led concierge approach to living a healthy lifestyle. Trainers, instructors, and a physician all come together to design the optimal plan for each resident.
And, because nothing is optimal without a smoothie bar nearby, Cambridge Village hasn’t forgotten. The Village Smoothie Bar is just beyond the pool.
Cambridge Village resident, Ed Drew, is not alone when he says that the Center for Optimal Living is what sold him.
“We’d already visited several places. But, when we got to Cambridge, and I saw that wellness center downstairs, and that beautiful, magnificent pool, that did it…I said, ‘I love this place! Then I said, ‘Okay, now, let’s look at the rest of it’,” Drew said with a chuckle. “So we did. And, we totally fell in love with it.”
Center for Optimal Living memberships are available to the general public for those over the age of 45, and will soon be available to all adults, with a maximum of 350 total memberships available.
Medspa at Cambridge
If the Center for Optimal Living is going a step beyond, then the Medspa at Cambridge is a giant leap. Walking into this full-service Medspa is instantly as sensual and relaxing an experience as it is in any spa. From massage therapy, facials and mani/pedis, to botox, laser treatments, and more, residents can treat themselves, and take care of themselves, as often as they need or would like to. The Medspa also includes a full service hair salon frequented by residents as well as the general public. Families, children, and friends are beyond welcome at the Village. Cambridge Village is designed to accommodate and nurture such connections. “We love to see our residents spending time with their families, enjoying a nice dinner or holiday meal in the Village Restaurant, and enjoying our relaxing outdoor space by the fire pits,” said Manning.
Life comes together at Cambridge Village and it all meets seniors where they are. Just when folks are ready to say no to cooking and maintaining and yes to visiting and enjoying and exploring, Cambridge Village staff steps in to make that happen.
In addition to lavish 1-2 bedroom apartments (some complete with a sunroom), residency at Cambridge Village includes an extensive list of amenities.
Here’s a quick list:
- Library, chapel, media room, and game rooms
- MedSpa & Salon
- Cafe and Pub/Lounge
- Fitness Center Membership
- Professional Directed Optimal Living Program
- Cable TV/Phone/Internet
- Housekeeping and linen services
- Emergency response system
- Washer and dryer in all apartments
- Fire sprinkler and smoke detection
- Luxurious wall-to-wall carpeting
- All maintenance and repairs
- Resident mailboxes
- Resident manager on site
- Guest suites available
- Individually controlled heat and air conditioning
- Scheduled transportation by courtesy shuttle to appointments
- Wireless internet access throughout
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